Chelan PUD commissioners are considering a plan to connect rural neighborhoods to super-fast internet ahead of schedule. The goal is to extend the utility’s fiber optic network to an estimated 5,800 homes by 2024, about 1,200 more than previously planned. (1.04, Aug. 17 board commission audio)
“Getting this expansion done as rapidly as possible is in everybody’s best interest,” Commissioner Dennis Bolz said, citing the digital divide and the shift to education online. (2:21, Aug. 3 board commission audio). “We need to do our part.”
The proposal will come up for a planned final discussion at the Sept. 8 board meeting.
About 76 percent of Chelan County has access to the PUD’s fiber network. In 2016, the PUD committed $25 million to reach 85-90 percent of the county by 2026.
“Accelerating the fiber build-out was the number one issue we heard about during our strategic planning process,” General Manager Steve Wright said. “Now more than ever, this is something highly valued by our customer-owners.”
The PUD considers several factors when deciding where to build out its fiber network, including cost, population, and existing PUD electrical and fiber infrastructure.
“Our goal under the expansion program is to provide broadband access to as many customer-owners possible, in the most cost-effective way with the funding provided,” said Robert Shane, director of network operations at Chelan PUD.
In other business, commissioners:
- Heard updates about construction projects at the Rocky Reach Discovery Center (opening in 2021) and the PUD Central Maintenance facility. Contracts to proceed with this work are expected to be addressed at the next board meeting. (0:47)
- Were given a 2020 Q2 update about wholesale energy revenue, which is generally consistent with budget expectations, despite lower wholesale prices through the end of Q2 (0:15)
- Received information about customers experiencing hardship with utility bills and assistance programs offered by the PUD to help (1:25)
- Sept. 8 – Commission study session 10 a.m., business meeting 1 p.m. (virtual meetings)
- Sept. 21 – Commission study session 10 a.m., business meeting 1 p.m. (virtual meetings)
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The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The public is welcome to attend remotely in accordance with the latest guidance from the state Department of Health.
Chelan PUD records most commission meetings, and a link to the audio is available on the PUD’s home page at www.chelanpud.org. Find us at Facebook.com/ChelanPUD and follow us on Twitter @ChelanPUD.
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